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Petro Schwartz – Democratic Dreams: How Impossible Policies Endanger Liberal Democracies

VADUZ – On May 20, 2022, the 16th Gottfried von Haberler Conference was held at the University of Liechtenstein. Title: “On the Morality of the State and the State of Political Morals”. Leading international scientists and recognized experts discussed the highly relevant, and explosive topic. The event was organized by ECAEF – European Center of Austrian Economics Foundation – and supported by the University of Liechtenstein and multiple local and international sponsors.

Over the next days, we publish recordings of the talks and interviews given at the conference. Today’s video clip and interview: Petro Schwartz “Democratic Dreams: How Impossible Policies Endanger Liberal Democracies”

The Interview with Pedro Schwartz is conducted by Karl-Peter Schwarz (Die Presse)

Dr Pedro Schwartz is Professor in the Department of Economics at Camilo José Cela University in Madrid. At the MPS General Meeting in Hong Kong in September 2014 he was elected President of the Mont Pèlerin Society, of which he became a member in 1978. He is a Bachelor and Doctor in Laws of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and a Master of Economics and a PhD in Political Thought at the LSE. Since 1970 he has been a Professor of Economics at four Spanish universities. From 1982 to 1986 he was a member of the Spanish Parliament in the Liberal / Conservative interest. From 2006 to 2008 he was an expert writing briefs for the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs of the European Parliament.

He belongs to the Board of the Spanish Think Tank “Civismo”, to the Academic Advisory Board of the IEA in London, of the Liberales Institut Zürich and of the European Center of Austrian Economics at Liechtenstein; and in the US, he is an Adjunct Scholar of the Cato Institute.

Inflation and overregulation are markers of the end of free societies

GIS – Comment by Prince Michael of Liechtenstein*

The innovation and freedom required for prosperity are threatened by unaccountable supranational organizations, expanding state bureaucracies and misguided public policies.

inflation and overregulation – markers of the end of free societies. Source: GIS

Over the past three years, one of businesses’ main concerns has become securing supply chains for raw materials and semifinished products. But another factor that has grown just as troublesome, or maybe even worse, is the lack of good workers. Inflation is now the topic on everyone’s mind. Prices are rocketing. People are rightfully concerned. Officials attempt to calm the public by claiming that this situation will be overcome because it is mainly due to the interruption in supply chains caused by Covid-19, and now by the war in Ukraine. U.S. President Joe Biden even went as far as to call it Vladimir Putin’s inflation. The European Central Bank and its president constantly denied a medium- to longer-term problem and were consequently always wrong in their forecasts. These are either cynical lies or proof of incompetence.

On the contrary, this inflation is structural. It is caused by demand exceeding the supply of goods and services. Consumers, including governments, have money in abundance. Central banks’ irresponsible money printing to cover government overspending and waste has created a situation in which the amount of money circulating throughout the economy disproportionally exceeds the goods and services on offer.
This phenomenon is exacerbated by the growing number of people in nearly all economies engaging in supervisory and administrative jobs – mainly public services – instead of productive private sector positions. The flood of laws, rules and regulations issued on national and supranational levels has become a self-fueling engine, sucking up more and more resources.

Driven by irresponsible deficit policies, the public and administrative sectors are growing. In turn, the bureaucratic complications feed such sectors as tax advisory, compliance, legal services and standardization boards, but also supranational bodies such as the 38-nation Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Talent badly needed in business is absorbed into these new professions, made necessary by expanding government. These roles then feed complications that create more layers of unproductive positions in public administration and business advisory. At the same time, we see that next to inflation and supply-chain disruptions, a severe shortage of workers in productive jobs is one of the economy’s biggest problems.

We are becoming increasingly authoritarian and hiding behind democratically unaccountable supranational organizations. The unstoppable regulatory process gives authorities increasing power and opportunities to make arbitrary decisions. Any perceived threat, from terrorism to Covid-19 to climate change, is welcomed as a pretext to tighten the screws on freedom. It is certainly necessary to fight terrorism, support sustainability and take measures against pandemics, but all of those goals can be achieved without placing disproportionate limits on freedom and constructing convoluted bureaucracies.
Through excessive administration, legislation and regulation, restrictions on freedom, government overspending and irresponsible monetary policies, we are committing suicide as a free and prosperous society. This suicide is assisted by a collusion of governments, supranational organizations, rent-seeking cronies and ideas such as the “great reset” promulgated by the World Economic Forum.

When we will have finally succeeded in killing a prosperous economy, politicians, media and nongovernmental organizations will blame the failure on markets, not the state. The proposed solution will then be more government intervention and “full equality.” Such solutions are already being implemented. When the trend is complete, the bureaucratic dream of 19th- and 20th-century communists will have come true.

In this state-dominated economy, we will have to forget about prosperity and freedom. A bureaucratic nomenklatura will impose an equality of mediocrity. Sustainability will become an illusion as innovation is held back. The old Soviet model is making a comeback. It is surprising that people have forgotten so quickly and do not realize what is happening. They just need to look to North Korea to see how the model works.


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GIS Reports Online

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Hayek – Courageous Endeavors With Some Success

A short appreciation of F. A. von Hayek’s academic ventures
prior, during and after World War II. By Kurt R. Leube*

It is 2022, and lest we forget one of the most seminal minds and audacious scholars of our time, we should recall some lesser known qualities of Friedrich A. von Hayek. He was born on May 8, 1899 and died 30 years ago in Freiburg/Br.

“Unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds,
the prospects of freedom are indeed dark.”
F. A. von Hayek

Hayek – Courageous Endeavors With Some Success | With a ruined currency, cut off from the fertile farmlands and resources of its former Crown lands and with only about 0.5% of its coal reserves left, the vast Habsburg empire of some 50 million collapsed in 1918. Suddenly reduced to a small land-locked country of barely 7 million people, the emerging Austria struggled for its economic survival. During the appalling economic and political conditions that prevailed in the years following WW I, various ideas of the “Anschluss” to Germany were soon commonly discussed. Before long a despicable racist bias also began to creep into public life and became a venomous issue especially within academia. As a result, numerous creative intellectual circles, seminars and institutes developed in Vienna outside the traditional university institutions.

After Friedrich von Wieser, Hayek’s teacher and the last leading scholar of the Austrian School’s 2nd generation retired in 1922, a void with paralyzing conflicts between different political camps began to impede the working environment at the University of Vienna. The tradition of the Austrian School was thrown into serious jeopardy. With not much hope for any decent academic position, Hayek and many of his fellow graduates and colleagues thus flocked into the “Privat Seminar” which Ludwig von Mises conducted in his office at the Vienna Chamber of Commerce until the worsening political circumstances compelled him to move to Geneva in 1934.

Like their mentor, most of the seminar participants also started to think about leaving the country. And when Hans Mayer forced all political opponents and all Jewish members to resign from the Austrian Economic Society, he terminated in effect the school’s existence in Vienna. With Hayek in London, Gottfried von Haberler and Joseph A. Schumpeter at Harvard, Ludwig von Mises in New York, Fritz Machlup in Buffalo, and numerous other affiliates scattered around the world, Vienna ceased to be the stronghold of Austrian Economics. The devastating “brain drain” from Austria reached its peak and turned into a “brain gain” primarily for the US and the UK.

Shortly after Hayek has presented his challenging lectures on ‘Prices and Production’ at the London School of Economics, he was offered a full position there. Fully aware of the rapid deterioration of the political conditions in Austria, and after quite some pondering he accepted and moved to London in the early fall of 1931. Shortly after he has settled into the new and rather unfamiliar surroundings with organizing the life for his family in London and despite the fact that he was engaged in a full scale academic debate with John Maynard Keynes, he started to support his friends in Vienna with modest funds and words of encouragement. Hayek also tried to keep in touch with like-minded scholars elsewhere who were either terrorized, forced to leave their jobs, or were otherwise deprived of any outside contacts.

To that end and even though he was already featured on the Nazi watch list, Hayek traveled to Vienna in mid-April 1939 for the last time before the beginning of WW II. Among other tasks, Hayek tried there to reclaim L. von Mises’ manuscripts, personal documents, books and some family valuables which undercover Gestapo agents had confiscated earlier from Mises’ apartment in downtown Vienna. Regretfully, Hayek’s efforts came too late as the Nazis had already shipped some 30 boxes to Berlin for further inspection, processing as well as illegal appropriation. However, by sheer accident in 1992 Mises’ meticulously catalogued manuscripts, clearly marked as “Fund #623-Ludwig von Mises” were discovered by two eminent Austrian historians in a former secret KGB archive, outside Moscow. Apparently most of Mises’ academic material and personal documents were taken by the Soviet army after the fall of Berlin and were transferred to Moscow to be studied by the KGB.

At the end of April 1939, on his return from Vienna to London, Hayek briefly stopped in Paris to meet with L. v. Mises, W. Roepke, M. Polanyi and J. Rueff with the aim to discuss the founding of an International Center for the Revival of Liberalism (a sort of intellectual forerunner of the “Mont Pelerin Society”). However, due to the dismal political situation this endeavor too regretfully proved futile and the center ceased to exist soon after Nazis troops occupied Paris.

Hayek courageous endeavors with some success

Back in England and only days after Great Britain and France declared war on Hitler’s German Reich, Hayek made himself available. Frustrated and deeply troubled by the unfolding catastrophe, Hayek approached Harold Macmillan, an outspoken opponent of the appeasement of Germany and offered some help. First Hayek proposed to improve Britain’s clumsy anti-Nazi propaganda by suggesting ways and means to penetrate Hitler’s firm grip on the media. He also gave very detailed and practical advice of how, when and where to smuggle printed anti-Nazi material into Germany. And among several other ideas, he even translated the concluding paragraphs of Friedrich von Schiller’s famous historical essay on the ‘Legislation of Lycurgus’ for the BBC and suggested to replace Hitler for Lycurgus and Germany for Sparta. Although Hayek’s splendid adaptation of Lycurgus, the King of Sparta reads like the account of Hitler’s seizure of power in the German Reichstag, his efforts failed to impress the authorities, most probably due to its intellectual sophistication and the lack of assumed knowledge. With little ability to actively help his friends in Vienna or elsewhere, he immersed himself in working on his The Road to Serfdom, that became a bestseller during the years immediately following WW II. As a byproduct of this book, Hayek circulated a note on the significance of the German ‘New Order’ and warned the British public directly, that due to their philosophical and political tradition and upbringing, Germans mainly do not comprehend any order which is not organized from the top. It seems likely that Churchill’s regular BBC addresses were intellectually and politically inspired by Hayek’s efforts.

When Hayek learned about Ludwig von Mises’ desperate escape from Geneva through occupied France to Lisbon and his ordeal until he arrived penniless in New York, he alerted his old Viennese colleagues who meanwhile have settled in the US and organized help. Within weeks Machlup, von Haberler, Felix Kaufmann, Herbert von Fuerth and a handful of other refugees started to support their distressed and needy former teacher with some funds and other supportive actions. Among them was an invitation for Mises to write several short but well paid essays for the monthly journal The Voice of Austria. Headquartered in New York, the periodical was in large parts generously funded by Archduke Otto von Habsburg’s family. The Voice of Austria was in circulation only in the US and provided Austrian intellectuals, refugee scholars and expats at least with a temporary intellectual home during the war.
In 1943 about 2 years prior to the end of WW II, Hayek circulated a strictly confidential note between his English friends and a number of influential, well-connected Austrian refugees in London. In this memorandum he compellingly recommended the foundation of An English Speaking College of Social Studies for Central Europe. He suggested to establish this institution in Vienna as soon as the war ended. In considerable detail he outlined his vision of such an interdisciplinary small, private university where Economics, Law, Philosophy, History, Anthropology and Sociology ought to be taught.

Although, his idea was met with enthusiasm and a great deal of good will, for the time being and much to Hayek’s regret this initiative failed as wartime England was focused on more obvious problems. Although Hayek realized that London, still under random bombing raids was not the right place to lobby for his dream he did not give up. Shifting his efforts, Hayek started to raise the necessary funds with the intention to bring the philosopher Karl R. Popper, another Viennese refugee from New Zealand permanently to the London School of Economics. Notwithstanding that Popper could only accept the position at the LSE in 1946, Hayek’s endeavor at last was successful in getting his friend to join him in London.

When in 1944 Archduke Robert von Habsburg founded the “Committee Justice for South Tyrol” in London in order to persuade Prime Minister Churchill to negotiate a return of South Tyrol to Austria after the war, Hayek spontaneously joined the group. He published several interesting essays on the subject of South Tyrol and tried also to promote his idea of founding a German speaking university in Bolzano (I) to counter Italy’s ‘Italianization’ policy in South Tyrol. Although this endeavor proved unsuccessful and ceased to exist after shortly the war, Hayek continued his engagement for South Tyrol until well into the late 1970s. In the early 1990s a small university was eventually founded in Bolzano.

Just days before Hayek’s eminent book The Road to Serfdom appeared in London in April 1944, he delivered a visionary talk at Cambridge University’s Kings College. Here again he passionately warned the audience that it might well be that the eventual collapse of Nazi-Germany will cause such utter devastation and social instability in Central Europe that parts of it could become an easy prey for Stalin’s oppressive strategy and thus might disappear from the orbit of the European civilization for quite some time. Although, his alarming lecture was met with enormous interest, it had no lasting effect. However, it could very well be that Churchill’s 1944 “Project Unthinkable” (in which an allied assault on the Soviet Union after the defeat of the Nazis was contemplated) had some bearing on Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom.

Mainly due to Fritz Machlup’ tireless efforts, in September 1944 The Road to Serfdom finally appeared also in the United States. In early 1945, after “Reader’s Digest” had published a superbly condensed version of this book, Hayek was invited to an extensive lecture tour through the United States and delivered his powerful message mainly at universities, rural colleges or town halls. The unforeseen success of the condensed version and also of the tiny booklet The Road to Serfdom in Cartoons which was first published by ‘Look Magazine’ as a Thought Starter #118, made Hayek an instant celebrity and his US speaking tour a personal triumph. While the war still ferociously fought in Europe, Hayek wherever he appeared on stage in the US promoted the idea of the foundation of an International Academy for Social Philosophy in Vienna.

Hayek returned to England at the day of Nazi Germany’s unconditionally surrender to the Allies in Reims on May 8, 1945 and soon thereafter he met with Anthony Fisher in London. For Fisher, a decommissioned Royal Air Force pilot, The Road to Serfdom was a life changer and Hayek persuaded him to found a private research institute, dedicated to the analysis and the understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society. After some hard work Fisher founded the ‘Institute for Economic Affairs’ (IEA) in London which is still among the leading free market oriented think tanks.

About four months after the end of WW II in Europe, Hayek somehow obtained permission from the allied military authorities for a short visit to Paris and Zurich in order to meet among others with Profs. Perroux, Rueff, Roepke and Albert Hunold – an influential Swiss businessman. Back in London, Hayek quickly drafted another Memorandum in which he proposed the Foundation of an International Academy for Political Philosophy and suggested to call it ‘The Acton-Tocqueville Society’. However due to the prevailing dire conditions on the continent only after several attempts and with the help of Jacques Rueff, Hayek’s proposal could be distributed to some relevant scholars. And on April 1, 1947 Hayek succeeded to bring together about 40 academics (including three future Nobel Laureates) from 10 different countries at Mont Pelerin above Vevey, Switzerland in April 1947. The result of this meeting was the foundation of the Mont Pelerin Society.

Like Germany and Berlin, Austria and Vienna were divided into four occupation zones. Thus, Vienna like Berlin, was an isolated island surrounded by marauding Soviet troops in the middle of the larger Soviet occupation zone. And yet, against all odds Hayek was able to get permission from the allied authorities to visit Vienna partly totally flattened with bombs. After having seen surviving family members and friends and having witnessed the extensive damage and the sufferings the war has caused there, Hayek returned to London in a state of shock and wrote an alarming article for the popular press in which he blamed the occupation forces not only for treating Austria much worse than other countries which joined Nazi Germany voluntarily. In sharp words he also made a strong case for an immediate ending of the military occupation by the Allies, because they have prevented the Austrians from helping themselves.

Though, his efforts were in vain, Hayek did not rest and tried hard to urge several of his current and former colleagues for help to get the intellectual reconstruction of Austria on its way. To him, the intellectual reconstruction of Austria was just as important as its political and economic reconstruction. He worked tirelessly in the postwar years in an attempt to rejuvenate Austria’s proud tradition in economics and the humanities.

For that purpose, in early September 1946 Hayek traveled to Vienna again in a daring attempt to help ease the unbearable conditions of Viennese universities by evading the censorship enforced in the occupation zones. Encouraged by the eagerness of returning soldiers to continue their studies and regain contact with the Western academic world after almost 8 years of Nazi imposed isolation, Hayek made plans to stock the Austrian National Library in Vienna with appropriate more current books and journals.

Back in London, he approached mostly well connected former Austrian scholars and suggested to set up a small organization with Hayek in the chair. His dramatic appeal to pull together the most important books and periodicals bearing on the humanities and the social sciences published since the Nazis took over was successful and soon led to the foundation of an Austrian Book Committee. In the summer of 1947 he spent again a week in Austria lecturing at the forerunner of the “European Forum Alpbach“, an initiative founded by two Austrians in 1945. Hayek liked the interdisciplinary settings in a small village in the Tyrolean mountains and encouraged many of his friends not only to participate, but also to donate their newest publications to the Austrian Book Committee.

Among many others, the philosophers Popper and Feyerabend, the physicist Schrödinger, or the economists Gottfried von Haberler, von Fuerth, Machlup, von Mises or Oskar Morgenstern eagerly contributed to his efforts. When he returned to London, the Austrian Book Committee had already collected some 2,500 books and the rather complex shipment to Austria was about to be arranged. In Spring 1948 Hayek went to Vienna to organize and oversee the distribution of the books and to his deep disappointment had to witness the appalling and hampering bureaucratic procedures at the allied customs and the Austrian authorities. Frustrated by his choked efforts soon thereafter he recommended to wind down and terminate the operation by spending the already raised funds.

Supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, but mainly financed by a small group of determined Austrian entrepreneurs who endured the Nazi regime and the war, in July 1948 Hayek was able to organize a reunion of former members of L. von Mises’ famous “Privat-Seminar” in Vienna. Almost the entire surviving 3rd and 4th generations of the Austrian School of Economics reunited in Vienna and conducted a kind of summer school at the premises of the Julius Meinl Company.

Formal lectures and seminars alternated in a structured fashion and the main texts used were von Mises’ Nationalökonomie (1940), von Haberler’s Der internationale Handel (1933), von Hayek’s Preise und Produktion (1931) and The Road to Serfdom (English 1944), and Machlup’s Führer durch die Krisenpolitik (1934), etc. Although, this first reunion of the Austrian School’s members of the 3rd and 4th generations after the war was a major success and highly appreciated by the attending students and its entrepreneurial sponsors, this unique and very promising summer school in Vienna could not be repeated predominately due to the systematic obstruction of the Soviet occupation forces, ideological boycott of the Socialist Party and local political reasons.

While in Vienna Hayek lectured on The Political Consequences of Central Planning at the invitation of the newly reestablished Federation of Austrian Industrialists. Although his arguments were spontaneously interrupted with ‘standing ovations’, his lecture caused serious political irritations mostly at the Austrian Socialist Party (SPÖ). It should be noted here that due to serious Soviet political pressure, a German translation of The Road to Serfdom was available in Austria only after 1949.

On his way back from Vienna to London, Hayek briefly met some likeminded Swiss scholars in Interlaken, among them W.A. Jöhr, E. Küng, F.A. Lutz, A. Amonn or K. Brunner. This meeting developed into the “Interlaken Economic Talks” of the 1960s and 1970s, initiated by K. Brunner.

When Hayek joined the University of Chicago’s “Committee on Social Thought” in the fall of 1950, traveling to Europe became much more expensive and time consuming. However, his efforts to revive the academic tradition of the Austrian School of Economics in Central Europe only somewhat slowed down. In order to raise the awareness for the depressing situation of Austrian universities, Hayek wrote several elaborate and urgent memos for a number of private US foundation and suggested the foundation of a small institute to make fundraising easier. His lobbying efforts during the 1950s paid off and led to the establishment of the Austrian Institute, Inc. in New York in the fall of 1954. In a confidential draft for the Institute, Hayek not only went at great length to demonstrate the seminal contributions to science that were made by scholars at his Viennese alma mater. He also listed numerous first class scholars who have achieved a considerable international reputation and could possibly help to revive the old tradition of the Austrian School of Economics.

On the political side he claimed that Austria’s “Neutrality Treaty” which was signed in May 1955 could offer an exceptional opportunity to restore the University of Vienna as a main intellectual fort at the boundaries of the West. When the Soviet Union brutally crushed the Hungarian Revolution in the fall of 1956, Hayek wrote another memorandum in which he emphasized the global importance of Austria in the struggle for Western Culture and freedom and asked for the foundation of An American Committee for Vienna University. With the Austrian Ambassador to the US, Karl Gruber as Honorary President and any number of well-connected names on its board, it was established on March 1, 1957. Shortly thereafter Hayek started lobbying and tried hard to get among others, the philosopher Sir Karl R. Popper and the art historian Sir Ernst Gombrich back to Vienna. However, regretfully both his efforts failed, mostly due to the strict opposition of the Austrian Socialist Party.

In his new Proposal for the Creation of an Institute of Advanced Human Studies in Vienna he outlined in some detail the projected institutes’ tasks, structure, and academic mission, and presented his idea to several private US foundations. In June of 1959 Hayek traveled to Vienna and had there several quite promising meetings with three Austrian federal ministers, which led eventually to the creation of the “Institute for Advance Studies, Vienna”. Due to a major contribution from the Ford Foundation, the institute quickly became also known as the Ford Institute and Hayek was in residence there during the spring of 1963.

However, as so many good things in Austria, also this institution was soon subjected to some heavy-handed political influence and actions. Thus, especially during the 1960s and 1970s the orientation of the Institute for Advanced Studies shifted to the political left and changed its academic direction towards a more quantitative, econometric, and macro-economic approach.

While in Austria, Hayek was offered a professorship at the University of Vienna in 1962. Although, he was pleased and flattered by the generous offer, Hayek turned it down mostly due to the unscholarly, political and systematic polemics against him which continued until the mid 1980s in Austria, Germany and elsewhere. However, in the same year he helped founding the innovative International Freedom Academy (INFRA) in Vienna, which in scope, direction, and organization was modelled after The Institut d’Etudes Politiques, based in the Principality of Liechtenstein. Despite his hard work, INFRA regretfully ceased to exist after only about 3 years, again predominately due to the appalling bureaucratic and political hurdles. However, parts of its academic tradition are carried on by the European Center of Austrian Economics Foundation (ECAEF), that was established in the Principality of Liechtenstein, Europe’s last stand of academic independence, political freedom and individual responsibility.

Hayek courageous endeavors with some success
F. A. von Hayek – courageous endeavors with some success.

In the fall of 1962, only a few months after Hayek had declined the offer made to him in Vienna, he decided to leave the University of Chicago and accepted a professorship at the University of Freiburg/Breisgau. He taught there until 1968 and thus moved closer to his native Austria. As a passionate mountaineer, Hayek could also regularly spend his summer vacations in the Austrian Alps, usually in the Tyrolean village of Obergurgl.

When in 1967, the conservative Federal Chancellor of Austria urged Hayek to apply for the presidency of the Austrian National Bank, one of the most prestigious and well paid positions, he again declined mostly on grounds of systematic partisan obstruction and the expectation of a predominantly administrative workload. It seems to be very typical for Hayek’s uncompromising devotion to scholarship that he apparently left a country the moment he was offered any major political position. Shortly he retired from the University of Freiburg/Br., in 1969 he accepted a professorship at the University of Salzburg which he held until 1977.

Against many odds, Hayek nevertheless continued his ambitions to revive the interest for the Austrian School of Economics in his superbly crafted, thought-provoking, and most elegantly conducted classes and seminars on the history of economic thought or some selected topics in economic theory. A few months after the death of Ludwig von Mises in October 1973, he tried one last time. In an attempt to help Margit von Mises, Hayek tried to acquire L. von Mises’ unique collection of books with the intention to merge it with his own extensive library. Due to a total lack of private funding and of adequate administrative support, this unique chance to put together worldwide the most comprehensive research library for the Austrian School of Economics was missed and sadly wrecked his last endeavor.

*Kurt R. Leube is the Academic Director of ECAEF (European Center of Austrian Economics Foundation), a leading think tank headquartered in Vaduz, Principality of Liechtenstein.

Zentralbankpolitik – Angriff auf die Freiheit der Bürger

Essay von Henrique Schneider*
Erstveröffentlichung als LI-Paper im April 2022 im Liberalen Institut 

Zentralbankpolitik – Angriff auf die Freiheit der Bürger | Menschen geben im liberalen Verständnis Teile ihrer Freiheiten ab, wenn sie sich in einem Staat vergesellschaften. Um den Staat daran zu hindern, die Restfreiheiten einzuschränken, wurden Grundrechte als Abwehrrechte gegen staatliche Tätigkeiten konzipiert. Mit dem verhängnisvollen Aufkommen der Interpretation von Grundrechten als Leistungsaufträge an den Staat mutieren ebendiese Rechte insgesamt zu Mitteln des Staates, die Freiheiten der Menschen weiter einzuschränken.

Zentralbankpolitik – Angriff auf die Freiheit
Zentralbankpolitik – Angriff auf die Freiheit der Bürger.

Beispiele, die dieser Logik folgen, sind die «unorthodoxe Geldpolitik» und das sich abzeichnende «Bargeldverbot»: Eine wesentliche Freiheit ist die Eigentumsgarantie. Viele Elemente der unorthodoxen Geldpolitik greifen das Eigentum direkt an. Der Negativzins etwa vernichtet das ersparte Kapital. Doch auch die Geldschwemme («Quantiative Easing») ist eine Verletzung des Eigentums. Denn die Risiken dieser Massnahmen werden auf die Menschen externalisiert: Die unmittelbare Verzerrung aller langfristiger Investitionen und in derer Konsequenz das praktische Verunmöglichen von Kapitalakkumulation und des sozialen Aufstiegs sowie die versteckte Enteignung in Form von Inflation.

Mit der unorthodoxen Geldpolitik greift der Staat zusammen mit der Zentralbank in empfindliche Bereiche der finanziellen (Teil-)Freiheit der Menschen ein: ihre Vorsorge, ihre Investitionen, ihre Kapitalakkumulation und ihre Erwartungen. Alles im Namen eines vermeintlichen «Rechts auf Wohlfahrt».

Die mit dem Bargeldverbot eingeschränkten Freiheiten gehen noch weiter als jene, die mit der «unorthodoxen Geldpolitik» verloren gehen: Hier stehen neben der Enteignung oder der Verzerrung von Investitionsentscheiden auch der gesamte Verlust der finanziellen Privatsphäre sowie der Kontrollverlust über die eigenen Finanzen zur Disposition.

Intuitiv wird oft davon ausgegangen, Freiheit und Recht gehören zusammen. Weil Menschen Freiheit haben, haben sie auch Rechte; weil das Individuum eine bestimmte Freiheit hat, hat es ein bestimmtes Recht – so geht die Intuition. Ist man jedoch einem liberalen, oder wichtiger noch, einem freiheitlichen Mensch- und Gesellschaftsbild verpflichtet, sind Freiheit und Rechte viel logischer als widersprüchliche Prinzipien aufzufassen. Und zwar in etwa so: Während Freiheit ein gestaltendes
Moment ist, sind Rechte des Bürgers nichts als die Konkretisierung eines Abwehrprinzips. Freiheit steht allen Menschen zu; Rechte stehen zunächst den Bürgern zu.

Freiheit gilt an sich; Rechte sind vom Staat gemacht. Freiheit gestaltet die eigene Lebenswelt; Rechte sind individuelle Abwehrrechte gegenüber dem staatlichen Eingreifen – auf diesen Unterschied wird weiter unten noch zurückzukommen sein …

weiterlesen ->
Zentralbankenpolitik – Angriff auf die Freiheit der Bürger (PDF)

* Henrique Schneider ist Professor für Ökonomie an der Nordakademie in Elmshorn (University of Applied Sciences) und Ressortleiter im Schweizerischen Gewerbeverband.

Auf der Suche nach dem Grund für Krieg in Ukraine

Deutsche Übersetzung eines Beitrags von Karl-Peter Schwarz*, The European Conservative

Karl-Peter SchwarzVladimir Putins Krieg gegen die Ukraine hat nicht erst am 22. Februar 2022 begonnen. Aber im Unterschied zu seiner Annexion der Halbinsel Krim und der Intervention an der Seite der Separatisten in der Ostukraine im Jahr 2014, geht es diesmal um mehr als nur einen weiteren völkerrechtswidrigen Angriff auf die Souveränität einer Nation.

Putin schickt die russischen Soldaten für eine neue Weltordnung in die Schlacht, die in Wirklichkeit jene vor dem Bankrott der Sowjetunion ist. “Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln“, lehrte Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831). Um zu verstehen, was vor unseren Augen geschieht, empfiehlt es sich, ein paar Schritte zurückzutreten, um den weiteren Horizont zu erfassen.

Vor mehr als vierzig Jahren, mitten im Kalten Krieg, stellte sich der deutsche Journalist Wilhelm Bittdorf in einem Essay für das Hamburger Nachrichtenmagazin „Der Spiegel“ folgende Szene vor:

“In Moskau läuten eines Morgens die Kirchenglocken und die Mitglieder des Zentralkomitees der KPdSU verlassen zu Fuß den Kreml und begeben sich gemessenen Schritts über den Roten Platz in die Basilius-Kathedrale. Dort sinken sie in die Knie. Nur der Genosse Suslow bleibt stehen und verkündet den einstimmigen Beschluß des ZK, dem gottlosen Kommunismus mit sofortiger Wirkung abzuschwören. Um die so lange mißachtete religiöse Sehnsucht des russischen Volkes zu erfüllen, werde man die Sowjet-Union in eine christliche Monarchie zurückverwandeln. Und man werde den großen Dichter und Künder russischen Wesens, Alexander Solschenizyn, respektvoll bitten, als Zar Alexander IV. die Herrschaft zu übernehmen.“

Und Bittorf weiter: „Unterstellt, dies Wunder geschähe. Wären wir dann alle unsere Sorgen und Ängste los? Auch ein nichtkommunistisches, aber dafür um so nationaleres und slawenstolzes Rußland würde seinen osteuropäischen Besitzstand wahren wollen.“

putin russland ukraine krieg
Vladimir Putin geht ein gewaltiges Risiko ein. Die Propagandschlacht hat er bereits verloren. Russland ist international isoliert. Foto: wikipedia

In einer idealen, freien und friedliebenden Welt, deren Voraussetzungen Ludwig von Mises in seinen politischen Schriften analysierte, wären uns vielleicht nicht alle, aber doch die größten Sorgen erspart geblieben. In einer solchen Welt hätte Russland nicht nur den Kommunismus aufgegeben, sondern es hätte sich als imperialistischer Staat aufgelöst. Es hätte Solschenizyns Utopie von einer friedliebenden Monarchie ohne Supermachtambitionen verwirklicht, die mit einem Minimum an Macht und Herrschaft ausgekommen wäre und ein Maximum an lokaler Selbstverwaltung nach Schweizer Vorbild zugelassen hätte. In einer solchen Welt wäre eine Friedensordnung leicht realisierbar gewesen.

In der realen Welt der Staaten aber wären wir unsere Sorgen und Ängste auch dann nicht losgeworden, wenn an der Spitze des Kremls nicht der KGB-Agent Putin, sondern eine moralisch unanfechtbare Persönlichkeit von Statur des ehemaligen Gulag-Häftlings Solschenizyn stünde. In der europäischen Staatenwelt besteht zwischen Russland und den Ländern im Westen nämlich ein so gewaltiges geopolitisches Ungleichgewicht, dass nach dem Zusammenbruch der Sowjetunion auch bei bestem Willen keine Friedensordnung errichtet werden konnte, die den Interessen aller Staaten entsprochen hätte.

Es war dieses Übergewicht, das nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg die Präsenz der Amerikaner auf dem europäischen Kontinent erforderte. Nach dem berühmten Spruch des britischen Generals Hastings Ismay war es die Funktion der Nato, “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.”Mehr als eine prekäre friedliche Koexistenz war unter den gegebenen Umständen nicht zu erreichen gewesen.

Wie schon vor dem Zweiten Weltkrieg ging es dabei vor allem um die Länder in dem Korridor, der sich vom Baltikum bis zum Schwarzen Meer erstreckt. Ihre prekäre Lage zwischen Deutschland im Westen und Russland im Osten beschreibt am besten der heute kaum noch verwendete Begriff „Zwischeneuropa“. Die in diesem Raum lebenden Nationen – Weißrussen und Ukrainer, Esten, Letten und Litauer, Polen, Tschechen und Slowaken, Ungarn, Bulgaren und Rumänen – haben die deutsche Besatzung ebenso erlitten wie die sowjetische. Die Erfahrungen mit „München“, dem Hitler-Stalin-Pakt und „Jalta“ haben sich tief in ihre kollektive Erinnerung eingegraben.

Als das totalitäre sowjetische System implodierte, konnten einige dieser Nationen zum ersten Mal frei über ihre Zukunft entscheiden. Weil sie Russland fürchten und Deutschland misstrauen, suchten sie das Bündnis mit Amerika. Von Anfang an war ihnen klar, dass in einem solchen Bündnis die Interessen der militärisch überlegenen USA dominieren würden. Das ist auch heute noch so. Von einer eigenständigen, von Amerika abgekoppelten europäischen Sicherheitsarchitektur halten sie dennoch nichts. Mit gutem Grund sehen sie in der EU einen deutsch-französisch dominierten Staatenbund, der auf ihre Bedürfnisse, Gefühle und Traditionen keine Rücksicht nimmt. Insbesondere die Polen und die Ungarn werden in der EU nicht als souveräne gleichberechtigte Partner respektiert, sondern erpresst und schikaniert.

Es ist eine russische Legende, dass die Nato ein Versprechen gebrochen hätten, diese Länder nicht aufzunehmen. Erst recht falsch ist es, dass die USA sie in das transatlantische Bündnis gedrängt hätten. Das Gegenteil war der Fall, sie alle wollten in die Nato, und die Nato ließ Zeit. Die amerikanischen Präsidenten George Bush sen. und Bill Clinton bremsten die Nato-Erweiterung, um die Regierung Boris Yeltsins nicht zu destabilisieren. Erst als sich herausstellte, dass Yeltsin sich nicht halten würde und ein neuer Ost-West-Gegensatz bevorstehe, willigten sie ein. Unter den ehemaligen Sowjetrepubliken gelang es aber nur Estland, Lettland und Litauen sich unter den transatlantischen Schirm zu stellen. Georgien, Moldawien, Weißrussland und die Ukraine hatten diese Chance nicht. Nach den anarchischen Jahren der Ära Jelzins trat Putin mit dem Ziel an, die russische Hegemonie zu sichern und die „abtrünnigen“ Sowjetrepubliken in die russische Einflusszone zurückzuholen.

Für die betroffenen Länder sind die Folgen fatal. 1992 stand die Ukraine ökonomisch deutlich besser da als Rumänien. Aber während Rumänien nach dem NATO-Beitritt rasch aufholen konnte, blieb die Ukraine zurück. Äußere Sicherheit ist eine unabdingbare Voraussetzung der politischen Stabilität, der Freiheit und des Wohlstands. Ohne sie stagniert die Wirtschaft; die sozialen Spannungen nehmen zu; die Abhängigkeit von der Hegemonialmacht steigt.

Da kein Land in die NATO aufgenommen werden kann, wenn es nicht die volle Souveränität über sein Staatsgebiet hat, bestand die russische Strategie zunächst darin, Separatisten zu unterstützen, Marionettenregierungen zu installieren und „Friedentruppen“ zu entsenden. Nach Transnistrien, Abchasien und Südossetien kamen die ostukrainischen „Volksrepubliken“ an der Reihe. Als logisch nächster Schritt war mit ihrer Annexion zu rechnen gewesen. Dass Putin sich nicht damit begnügen würde, sondern die Auslöschung des ukrainischen Staates beabsichtigte, hielt man im Westen für ausgeschlossen. Deutschland und Italien finanzieren seit vielen Jahren mit ihren Öl- und Gasimporten die russische Aufrüstung, während sie den dringenden Rat Donald Trumps, in ihre Verteidigung zu investieren und die Nato militärisch zu stärken, in den Wind schlugen.

Geopolitisch hat die Ukraine, der Putin das Lebensrecht bestreitet, ein ungleich größeres Gewicht als irgendeine andere ehemalige Sowjetrepublik westlich des Urals. Ohne sie kann es die von Putin angestrebte „Eurasische Union“ nicht geben. Aber wenn Russland die Kontrolle über die Ukraine mit ihren gewaltigen Ressourcen und ihrem geostrategisch Zugang zum Schwarzen Meer zurückgewinnt, wird es wieder eine Europa und Asien umspannende imperiale Macht, prophezeite Zbigniew Brzezinski vor 25 Jahren.

Eindringlich warnte Otto von Habsburg: „In der Zeit von Stalin bis Putin hat sich der russische Imperialismus immer wieder das Ziel gesetzt, die Ukraine erneut zu erobern, Russland einzuverleiben und als Ausgangspunkt für weitere große Operationen gegenüber Polen, beziehungsweise den anderen Teilen Europas, zu nutzen.“ Dies, und nicht etwa die angeblich bedrohliche „Einkreisung“ Russlands durch Nato-Staaten – wie viele rechte und linke Putin-Versteher in Amerika, in Europa und ganz besonders in Deutschland behaupten –, ist der wirkliche Grund des russischen Überfalls auf die Ukraine. Putin will, wie er mehrmals sagte, die Zerstörung des ukrainischen Staates. Auch wenn Kiew das in der ukrainischen Verfassung verankerte Ziel des Beitritts zur Nato und zur EU aufgegeben und einer „Finnlandisierung“ zugestimmt hätte, hätte das an seinen Plänen nichts geändert.

Wie wenig russische Sicherheitsgarantien und multilaterale Abkommen wert sind, wenn sie den Zielen einer revisionistischen Großmacht im Wege stehen, sieht man am Beispiel des Budapester Memorandums von 1994. Im Vertrauen auf die russischen, amerikanischen und britischen Zusagen hatte die Ukraine damals auf Nuklearwaffen verzichtet. Russland, die USA und das Vereinigte Königreich garantierten ihr dafür den Respekt ihrer Unabhängigkeit und Souveränität innerhalb der bestehenden Grenzen. Sobald sich Russland stark genug fühlte, seine imperiale Strategie wieder aufzunehmen, war das Memorandum nur noch ein wertloser Fetzen Papier.

Im April 2008 legten Angela Merkel und Nicolas Sarkozy auf dem Nato-Gipfel in Bukarest ihr Veto gegen den Vorschlag des amerikanischen Präsidenten George W. Bush ein, Georgien und die Ukraine zum Nato-Beitritt einzuladen. Den beiden Ländern wurde nur der Zugang zum Membership Action Plan (MAP) gewährt, der von ihnen Reformen sowie die Bereitschaft forderte, territoriale oder ethnische Konflikte zu lösen. Die Geschichte hätte einen anderen Lauf genommen, wenn sich die Nato damals für ihre rasche Integration entschieden hätte.Vier Monate nach dem Bukarester Gipfel, im August 2008, fielen russischen Truppen in Georgien ein. 2014 annektierte Putin die Krim und intervenierte in der Ostukraine. Gegenüber Nato-Ländern hätte er das mit ziemlicher Sicherheit nicht gewagt. Der Westen setzte auf Appeasement, was Putin als eine Schwäche interpretierte, die ihn zu weiteren Aggressionen ermunterte.

Diese Schwäche des Westens, die Putin sehr gut erkannt hat, ist im Grunde geistiger Natur. „Sketching the decline of the West around the time of World War I, Oswald Spengler may simply have been a hundred years too early“, glaubt Michael Kimmage. In einer berühmten Rede sagte Solschenizyn am 8. Juni 1978 in Harvard : „A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations.“

Solschenizyn hatte recht. Seine Rede legte die moralische Krise des Westens offen: „Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counterbalanced by the young people’s right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.“

Sätze dieser Art finden sich auch in Putins Reden. Darin liegt einer der Gründe seiner Popularität in manchen konservativen Kreisen, besonders in Amerika. „Is Putin One of Us?“, fragte Pat Buchanan 2013. Er verglich Putins „moralische Klarheit“ mit „America’s embrace of abortion on demand, homosexual marriage, pornography, promiscuity, and the whole panoply of Hollywood values“. Auch der russische Einmarsch in der Ukraine änderte nichts an Buchanans Sympathie für den russischen Diktator. Am 25. Februar schrieb er: „Putin is a Russian nationalist, patriot, traditionalist and a cold and ruthless realist looking out to preserve Russia as the great and respected power it once was and he believes it can be again. But it cannot be that if NATO expansion does not stop or if its sister state of Ukraine becomes part of a military alliance whose proudest boast is that it won the Cold War against the nation Putin has served all his life.“

Nicht nur Paläokonservative, auch Libertäre und religiöse motivierte Anti-Libertäre haben großes Verständnis für Putin und plädieren für Appeasement. Ihre Positionen unterscheiden sich kaum noch von denen der radikalen Linken. Das Jacobin Magazin veröffentlichte zum Beispiel einen Artikel unter dem Titel: „With Putin’s Ukraine Incursion, Hawks in Washington Got Exactly What They Wanted“.

Yuri Maltsev, ein russischer Ökonom der österreichischen Schule, der 1989 nach Amerika emigrierte, äußerte seine Wut auf Facebook so: „Many fake (very fake!) libertarians are on the side of Putin, KGB and national socialism. ​I would be happy to unfriend them right away and ​do not want to​ see them and talk with them again​.​​ Von Mises is from Ukraine (Galicia at his time) and he loved it​ and there are many libertarians in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. And all of them are on the side of the Ukrainian people. Ukraine is a also a refuge for many of those who escaped from their coercive regimes. Enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. Ezra Pound began with critique of FDR and ended… you know where as well as Knut Hamsun and Vidkun Jonssøn Quisling.“

Vladimir Putin geht ein gewaltiges Risiko ein. Die Propagandschlacht hat er bereits verloren. Russland ist international isoliert, die Reihen der westlichen Staaten schließen sich, und sogar notorische Putin-Verharmloser wie die deutschen Politiker setzen, wenigstens vorläufig, nicht länger auf einen deutsch-russischen Sonderweg. In den ersten Tagen haben die Ukrainer bewiesen, dass sie nicht kapitulieren, sondern den Kampf gegen den Aggressor führen. Sie wissen, dass sie für ihre Heimat kämpfen und sind bereit, für sie zu sterben. Aber wofür kämpfen die russischen Soldaten? Warum schießen sie auf ihre ukrainischen Brüder? Putin wird das ihnen und ihren Familien erklären müssen.

*Karl-Peter Schwarz graduierte an der Universität Wien in Geschichte und italienischer Literatur. Er arbeitete 35 Jahre für verschiedene Medien in Print, Hörfunk und Fernsehen, darunter Die Presse (Wien), ORF (Wien), Die Welt (Berlin), Die Woche (Hamburg) und Wirtschaftsblatt (Wien). Er war Auslandskorrespondent in Rom und in Prag. Von 2000 bis 2017 berichtete er für die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung über politische Angelegenheiten in mehreren mittel- und südosteuropäischen Ländern. Er hat aktuell eine wöchentliche Kolumne in Die Presse und publiziert in mehreren deutschen Zeitungen.